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Facebook to restore news in Australia as government amends upcoming law

Facebook to restore news in Australia as government amends upcoming law
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Facebook will lift its ban on news on the platform in Australia after the country’s government introduced further amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them,” William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand wrote in an updated blog post.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” added Easton.

Facebook earlier this month had announced its decision to block the sharing of news links on the platform owing to the new media bargaining code proposed by the Australian Government which will require the tech giant to pay for news shared on its platform.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” Easton had said.

Following this, multiple discussions had taken place between the social media major and the Australian government. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the weekend had said that Facebook was back at the negotiation table.

Agreement

Facebook was able to reach an agreement with the Australian government following these discussions with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher over the past week.

“We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation,” said Campbell Brown, VP, Global News Partnerships.

The amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code “will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,” the government said in an official release.

As per the amendments, digital platforms and news publishers will have two months to reach agreements with one another. It will also take into consideration in case a tech company has prior commercial agreements with the publishers.

“Non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices,” as per the amendments.

“Final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months,” it further adds.

It also detailed the conditions under which a digital platform will be designated to the code.

“The decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses,” the government said.

“A digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification,” it said.

As noted by the New York Times, the amendments will provide more time for Facebook to reach commercial deals with publishers similar to those by Google. It will also give more time to Facebook and Google to bring onboard more publishers for their Facebook News and Google News Showcase offerings.



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